Hmmm, that is interesting

File this under “Hmmm, that’s interesting” but you have to say it with one of your eyebrows raised.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were talking about how many people could be described in certain ways in reference to the world population. Like, how many people take gymnastics, what percentage? What percentage of people cannot swim (couldn’t find a reasonable answer for the world)? How many own cars, bikes, houses? Etc. So, of course, being nerdy we both pull out our phones and begin researching.

The world just tipped the 7 billion mark but  it’s hard to grasp things when contemplating such huge numbers. We found a really cool graphic that asks “What if the world were only 100 people?” So we battled each other on finding how many of the 100 would do various things:If the world were only 100 people

Of the 100 people, 50 are male, 50 are female, 26 are “children” and 8 are over age 65.

Of all these (100) people only 5 of us speak English. 5 others speak Spanish but 12 speak Chinese.

17 People cannot read.

23 have no shelter to rest their head.

51 live in the city.

13 have no access to water.

21 are overweight, and 15 are undernourished.

31 don’t get any exercise outside of their job or their daily living.

15 of the 100 are smokers.

13 people own cars.

Sadly, less than 1 does gymnastics. (sad face)

Side note: If the US was only 100 people; 80 (vs. 31 worldwide) would be sedentary, still less than 1 would be a gymnast (still sad face) and only 44 could swim.

I know it’s simplistic, but maybe if we saw the world as a smaller number, a number that could fit into one room, we would do something about the problems that the world faces. Maybe we could get 13 people a drink of water, we could convince 15 people to stop smoking, we could give 17 the gift or literacy, or we could motivate 31 of them to get up and move. When the numbers are easier to grasp the problems of the world should become harder to accept. I know that if the whole of the world’s people were only 100 that I could get more of them doing gymnastics, that’s for sure.


lucky we made it

You know how every once and awhile you get an e mail or Facebook post that compares how simple things used to be to how problematic they are now. They are usually ironically titled something like “remember when things were tough” or “We’re lucky we made it”. They go on to demonstrate by list or pictures how things were different when we were kids. They tongue-in-cheek say things like “we never wore seat belts and we survived” or “we ate candy made with  sugar, and we grew up healthy.

I classify these posts the same way I classify the ones that show something “old” like a TV antennae and ask “Who remembers what this is?” Oh nostalgia you make me feel so grown up.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

But c’mon. A lot of people remember a TV antennae for cryin’ out loud. So they are not around anymore, neither is polio but no one is pining for the simpler times by posting pictures of wheelchairs. Times have changed and we have all grown up. We have learned, and our most valuable lessons have always come from failures. We wear seatbelts now because too many people needlessly were damaged by not wearing one. We control our sugar intake because we have learned the repercussions of consuming too much of the stuff. Our advancements came at a price, but looking back and proudly claiming how we survived doesn’t make the state of our past ignorance any easier to swallow (unless it’s coated in sugar).

I love to watch old television shows like I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke and I am always baffled how, at the time, so many people were smokers. Truth be told, we didn’t know how bad it was back then and tons of people smoked. Then the studies were made public and laws were enacted and restrictions laid, and finally people changed their habits. It took fighting past kicking and screaming resistance but we finally advanced our behavior. Do I want to look back and say, “everyone smoked back then, and they turned out just fine.” NO! Lucille Ball died a withered and cancer-ed lady with a voice that sounded like a frog with TB. Were those the good old days when everyone lit up? I should say they were days when we didn’t know any better.

One of few pictures without a cigarette

One of few pictures without a cigarette

I was running with a friend a while back who was on medication for a health condition and was complaining that he had to take pills. He said when his grandparents were his age they weren’t made to take all this junk to be healthy. I responded by telling him that the average life expectancy of his grandparents generation was less than 64 years old, today it’s 78.7 years. Shut up and listen to your doctor.

It is true that we live in a culture of fear and everyone is trying to scare us into acting one way or another. If your kid rides a bike without a helmet he will have a major brain injury. If you let you kids play in the park they will be abducted. If you don’t re-post this you will have bad luck for 10 years. The fact is that some people did smoke without getting cancer, some biked without helmets, some drove without buckling, and some ate sugar and kept their teeth; but the research is out there. You are more likely to experience a negative outcome than a person who takes precautions, and precautions are easy. We grew up and we learned. Remember when we were young and dumb? Would you really want to go back to that time, knowing what you know now? Me neither, and it’s an antennae, geesh they haven’t been gone that long.



How clean is your pool?

This is gross. So, sorry. But we went for a swim at a friend’s place the other night and the water was looking a little green. I asked him if his filter was working and he told me that they were having some issues, but that it was still probably cleaner than a public pool.

Interesting. So I began looking at some stats on my tablet that night while I waited for sleep to hit me. I was a little disturbed and so, it took a little longer to fall asleep. But here is what I found.

6% of people who have been in public pools, read that as any pool that is given access by a general population, admit that they have swam while having a cold. 11% admit that they have swam with a runny nose. 70% say that they don’t shower before entering a pool and that may explain the 50% of pools that have traces of human fecal matter in them. Ick, right?

"It looks clean" is not good enough sometime

“It looks clean” is not good enough sometime

But, wait, what about the chlorine used to keep public places clean? That’s a great question. Lets talk chemistry. When Chlorine is combined with Uric acid (yes, everyone does pee in the pool), two dangerous gases are given off: Cyanogen Chloride and Nitrogen Trichloramine. Both are skin irritants, and can affect the lungs and even the heart negatively. A study out of Purdue U, explains that these gaseous byproducts are the reason that our eyes burn when in pools. So what most pool managers do is …wait for it….add more chlorine.

Bromine is also used in some pools and similar byproducts are given off, but it is way more expensive. So most public pools still rely on chlorine.

Now is that enough to stop me from swimming? No. I also let my kids swim in public pools all the time. In fact, my kids learned to swim in a pool program that we trusted. Not only were the instructors good but they took their pool maintenance pretty seriously. I never had burning eyes and we were in that water a lot. (See Madison Swim Academy). But we have also been in several hotels that were not as good. One place in Illinois had my eyes burning without even getting in the water.

So I guess it’s up to us to keep an eye out for good clean pools for our kids. But remember that when you smell strong chlorine, it’s because the pool is giving off gas made from people waste. Make good decisions, stay healthy.

We use green chemicals to clean our gym. Our mats are sanitized weekly and our gym not only cleans the floors, mats, and equipment, we spend a lot to clean our air. The musty gym smell comes from odor holding dust that accumulates on ceilings, and structures that we cannot reach. But rest assured that Gymfinity is clean and safe; it’s what we want for our kids. It’s what we want for your kids too.


See also: Our gym page at Gymfinity.com


A note from me about Success

Every year I write notes of encouragement to my competitive team kids, hoping that maybe some blue day that the little nugget might bolster their spirits. I was looking up some quotes on working through problems, perseverance, and success but the notes I was making for myself turned into a blog post instead.

All of the people I researched said similar things: “work hard” (Vince Lombardi), “do it now” (Mark Twain and Thomas Edison), and “keep challenging yourself” (Richard Branson). But these were cliché and I felt that they were just a “given”, meaning they all elicited a No Kidding response when I found them.  Work and determination are characteristics that are pounded out in every speech these kids hear. So I anticipated a “yeah yeah yeah” response if I themed it that way. I personally believe that people do want challenge but only if there is a great possibility of beating it. We don’t mind a good challenge as long as we get a self-esteem bump when it’s done. We are so fixated on winning that we can’t see that sometimes there is more value in being faced down by a challenge than in facing the challenge down. Challenge is a possible theme but sometimes it beats us, and that’s OK in my book. So maybe not challenge as a theme.

So I looked into the opposite side of the coin. What not to do, to be successful. But there were the same cliché responses. Steve Jobs said “Don’t waste time (do it now), don’t waste it living someone else’s life or living someone else’s thinking (dogma).  Bill Gates said to succeed that we cannot fear change. (actually he said: with time people will learn to accept their silicone masters -as a joke). But the points of each Gates and Jobs are true, we need independence, creative thought, and to be open to change. Again, no kidding was all I could muster. So no-go on Gates or Jobs.

You have the luxury to define your success

You have the luxury to choose your own outcome.

Winston Churchill said that we shouldn’t shirk from criticism, because it calls attention to what needs attention. I like that. He said it’s like pain in the body, when we feel it, we know what to attend to first. I like it but after further thinking I thought that my job is to criticize gymnasts. “Make it higher, make it faster, better, but do one more, and point your toes” are all critiques and so I felt utilizing Churchill was like saying “Listen to me.” The reality is that I coach great kids and they are respectful, hard working, and dedicated. I rarely have to say “listen to me” because they already do. So sorry Winston, you didn’t make the cut.

So I came up with this, hopefully it’s new enough thinking to make them pay attention. Hopefully it’s motivating, and hopefully it’s positive..

You have the luxury to choose your own outcome, to stick your own label on at the end of the day. You have the power to define victory, the strength to affect your own evaluation, and you alone should set your standard for your performance.

If you set out to beat other people then you will only experience defeat, even as they hang a medal around your neck. If you set out to get a medal or a trophy you will not be satisfied even when it’s handed to you. Your victory will only come when you have defined it’s terms.

I have told you all that losers are the ones who gave up, they never learn and aren’t open to lessons from loss. That won’t be you.

I believe that there are Winners and there are Learners. If you come out less than you anticipated then you must define your plan to return for the next attempt and guarantee yourself better results. And since winners determine their own definition of victory, then your definition, regardless of medals or trophies, should be to learn from every experience. When you are open to learning, you can NEVER lose.


See also: Our gym page at Gymfinity.com


why you should slow down on fast food

Look, gloves off, here is the straight scoop about fast food. I have written before how fast food is more a function of economics over taste or preference. I myself am not a total stranger to the drive through window, but I know that I indulge in that only once or twice a month.  Also, I am under no illusion that I am getting real food, I know I am filling my gut for a short term solution to a time crunch, period.

We all know that a regular diet that includes fast food will lead to  weight gain and can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes. That’ s a fact, and if you didn’t know that…..well, now you do.

Her’s another fact: let’s start with breakfast. Fast food eggs are made of dimethylpolysiloxane (found in lubricants and silly putty) and gycerin (found in soap). Though it might be better to just eat the soap and lube because other menu items might be surprising too. For instance, most fast food burgers contain only about 2 to 14% real meat. Most of the patty is chemical filler, that’s why they don’t spoil. When something doesn’t rot, you can bet it’s not organic or natural.  So forget the beef, get the chicken.

looks harmless

looks harmless

Maybe not. “Dad, which part of the chicken is the nugget?” Great question. It’s actually from various parts. In fact it’s from a process called mechanical separation: which is made from a slimy soup created from processed bones and other unusable carcass parts. (Mmmm right?) So, skip the chicken and go for a salad.

Hold the fork because even the salad choices are suspect. For example, a BK salad is 500 calories with 28 grams of fat and a day’s worth of sodium. But sadly still, probably your best choice. But often the salads are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, a cheap sweetener (definitely in the soft drinks and desserts) and a study from Princeton showed HFCS as a major cause of obesity.

Did you also know that fast food can be addictive? Yup, a study by Garber & Lustig shows a correlation of addictive behavior and fast food consumption. The CDC explains that obesity has gone up 100% in children and 300% in adolescents since 1984. So let’s connect the dots: HFCS causes obesity, HFCS is in many fast food menu options. Obesity is in a raging increase. Draw your conclusion.

For a healthy choice for your kids see: Our gym page at Gymfinity.com


the battle for control of our children

I was a health teacher in a middle school. I said the same thing to my health students, boys and girls, as I do to my team kids and my own children today. “Losing control of yourself is the worst thing that can happen to you. Whether you lose control to another person, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, or to a thing like alcohol or a drug; not being able to determine what you do is the worst position you can be in.” I believe that we should be empowering children for their life.

I feel that we are fighting an uphill battle. Not in regard to drugs or drink, though that could be argued. I feel that we have to realize the impact of what our kids see in marketing messages. Girls particularly have so much to overcome to get to a point where they can feel OK about themselves. From the get-go, they hear that they are not attractive and attractive is all that matters. They are not fashionable, and fashion is matters. They are not strong, and strength only comes with satisfying your man.  These are all wrong.

We need to unite as A.A..C’s (Adults Affecting Children)* in teaching children that they are OK just the way they are; and despite the advertising world trying to make them feel inadequate, they are just fine. They need to understand that no matter what they wear, where they go, or who they see, it is the person inside that people should know. It is only by letting others know who we are inside that we can find if they are friends or not. If not, then too bad for the lost friend, you didn’t need them anyway.

So when we see a company advertising to our children that they are somehow not good enough or incomplete without a given product, we need to understand that the company is trying to control our children’s minds. They are forming those kid’s thought realities.  When you are school shopping, watch the messages that your kids hear. Explain to them that the first day of school is just another day, it’s not a pageant and it’s not to judge the other kids by what they have or don’t have, wear or don’t wear.  Lets empower them to be strong, independent, and unaffected by high pressure marketing. We need to be there to bring our kids back to the truth. Can we all agree on that? Please. I can’t do it alone.

* Yes we do all have an effect on children but A.A.C. is not a real title or organization, it’s just me being hilarious**

** I often feel that I am funny, and I am really quite funny in my own mind. When I write things like that it’s best to  just smile and nod.

See also: Our gym page at Gymfinity.com


Over-rewarded and under-trained.

In high school I had a 3.8 grade point and I can only remember taking books home a few times. Success at our school was basically showing up, listening, doing the minimal work assigned and succeeding. Then I went to college and was shown, in no short time, that just showing up wasn’t enough. I started college with a 2.1 G.P.A. and nearly lost my place on the gymnastics team.

My son’s compete in Trampoline and Tumbling and have been in the USTA (United States Trampoline/Tumbling Association) for the last 2 years. In their competitions every child wins a trophy, recently the switched to medals at some meets due to cost, (USTA, my overcrowded shelves thank you). Today, participation trophies are expected by the kids and parents, in fact I heard a mom actually complain when her kid got a medal instead of a trophy. I guess to her the value was in the goodie bag and not the party (sorry, for the birthday party reference).

Studies have shown that the science of the over-rewarding of children is indisputable;.  Ashley Merryman (with Po Bronson, author of “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children” and “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing”) reports that awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. In fact it can cause them to underachieve.  By the age of 4 kids have already figured out that some kids are good at a performance and some are not. And it is true that we often see the kids who are not proficient can get frustrated and drop out. But we also see that kids who excel often feel cheated when everyone is rewarded the same despite their talent or effort. The kids who excel also get frustrated and quit. Is that what we wanted?

Different activities, gymnastics being one that I can attest to, are more appealing because the participation is challenging. Not knowing if they will win, place or show is exciting. Knowing that an unpointed toe is the difference between 1st and 2nd place makes the details important. That adds value to the sport or activity and the time and effort spent training it. If every child in a meet received a trophy what is the motivation to learn, grow, try-fail-and try again?

Yes we do have an annual show at Gymfinity and every child gets a medal. But that is a show and every child is rewarded for participating. Never, during the course of the event, do we try to pass it off as a competition. I am aware that kids feel great when they are recognized; that is what the show is all about. It’s a time to show what you learned and not to be confused with what you can do in comparison to another person. That is competition, and that is where I have a concern.

Studies show that kids respond positively to praise; that point is not in contention. But Carol Dweck (Stanford University) tells us that children accustomed to regular praise of ability regardless of outcome will likely crumble at the first sign of difficulty, then demoralized by their failure the kids say that they would rather “cheat” next time then experience failing again. Is that what we want?

Having studied recent increases in narcissism and entitlement among college students, Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me”  warns that we are setting up our children to believe that all it takes to succeed is to “show up”. I started by stating my high school rewarded me into that belief until reality (Actually it was reality and Dr. Parker) taught me differently. Had I not been raised to try harder when I failed, I would have quit school thinking that the system was rigged, or that it was too hard for a kid like me. I didn’t quit, in fact I graduated college with honors because I worked hard to reverse my poor start. In life, “you’re going to lose more often than you win, even if you’re good at something,” Ms. Twenge says, “You’ve got to get used to that to keep going.”

However, we have developed a system where we teach children that merely breathing at an event is worthy of reward. They are not allowed to fail and so they never learn the value of it.  Our goal should be to introduce kids to winning AND losing. We should show them that failure is a hurdle that can be overcome with effort. We need to value the growth and development over a longer time than focusing on the rewards that are offered for one moment in time.  My gymnasts are trained for meets 2 years down the road not for the meet that happens next week. They are trained to learn life lessons from the gymnastics model, winning a meet is a glorious byproduct but it cannot be the focus of training.  Of course meets are important and rewards should be given to those who earn them. But as adults we need to see that there is value in not winning, in fact, I believe that winning and losing both can be motivators to continue striving for excellence. With that as a philosophy how on Earth can we hand out trophies without meaning? Let me answer that: If rewards of no value will get children to quit, be frustrated, devalue participation, and ultimately be trained to believe that hard work, diligent focus and standing up after falling down have no value; then our goal must be to reverse everything our parents ever taught us.  Is that really what we want?   


Jason Orkowski

Jason Orkowski

A Little about me

Born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I started gymnastics inthe late 70's and started coaching in 1980 to help offset the expenses of my own participation. I graduated from UW LaCrosse with a BS in Physical Education, then went back and got another BS in Health Education. That was 1989.

Having coached around the country at camps, clubs and clinics I opened my own gym in 1999...Gymfinity. 

In 2010 I was brought on as a consultant to 3rd Level Consulting working with business leaders in the children's acivity center industry, specializing in human resources and marketing as well as setting up business systems. 

I married a wonderful friend and partner in 2001 and Stephanie and I have 2 children; Owen (2004) and Emmett (2008). 

October 2014
« Sep    

Gymfinity on Twitter

Past Postings from Gymfinity


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers